Gel Manicures: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

If you go into any nail salon you may hear some nail pros praising the name of gel manicures.

“Oh, they last longer.” 

“They really are worth the extra money.”

“I would never go back to a regular manicure.”

In case you don’t know what they are, gel manicures consist of a specially formulated nail polish that’s put on in coats, like regular nail polish. Your nails are then dried and hardened under a UV light. That process has traditionalists holding on tight to their old school manicures.

“There’s no way I’m putting that on my nails.”

“That is just way too expensive.”

No matter which side of the nail file you fall, there are pros and cons to the elusive gel manicure. If you’ve been on the fence about whether gel manicures are worth it, take a look at these pros and cons.


The Pros of a Gel Manicure

gel manicures

  • Gel Manicures Do Last Longer

Sorry gel-fearing manicure loving friends, but gel manicures do last longer. If you like your nails to have the “done” look more often than not, then gel manicures may be the way to go. They last longer than manicures done with regular polish because of the special nail polish and the drying process. On average, women report that their gel manicures last as long as three weeks. If you compare this to the week to ten days regular manicures last you can see why many women are going gel and never looking back.

  • Gel Manicures=No Chips (Hopefully)

One of the many reasons women prefer gel over regular manicures is because they don’t chip. How many times have you left the salon only to have one or more nails smudge? How many times have you gotten home, washed one dish and ended up with three chipped nails? The humanity! If you’re anti-chip then you may be pro-gel.

  • Spend More Now, Save Later with Gel Manicures

Do you want to spend more now on your nails or more later as you go for manicure after manicure? If you just want to pay more up front for one manicure that lasts longer then gel is for you. If you don’t mind going back to the salon every week or so and paying each time, then regular manicures may be more your speed. On average a gel manicure will cost you anywhere from $35 to $45 dollars. A regular manicure will run you $12 to $15 dollars. In the end, it’s really just your preference.

The Cons of a Gel Manicure

  • Gel Manicures Do a Number on Your Nails

We’ve all heard the saying “beauty is pain”. Well, when it comes to gel manicures, the pain can be in removing the polish. If you think you’re going to buy a regular bottle of nail polish remover and cotton balls at the drug store, think again. Just like there was a process to put on the polish, there is a process to take it off. This process involves soaking your nails in acetone. While this gets the nail polish off, it can also make your nails thin and brittle.

  • The UV Factor

Okay, this is a biggie. One of the main reasons women shy away from gel manicures is because ultra violet light is used in the drying process. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends putting on a broad spectrum sunscreen on your hands about 20 minutes before you start drying. This will help protect you against the harmful rays. Remember, even regular nail lamps produce UV radiation. So, your best bet is to fan or air dry.

  • Peeling Can Occur If Not Done Right

Make sure your nail technician knows how to do a gel manicure. If he or she doesn’t, you’ll be able to tell because the polish may lift or peel at the edges.  If this happens you know you definitely paid too much and got a mediocre manicure.

In the end, is a gel manicure really worth it? If you don’t worry about UV exposure, don’t mind paying a little more, and don’t mind soaking your nails to get the polish off then probably so. If you’re not a fan of one or all three of those things then you should probably stick to the good old-fashioned manicure.

Are Gel Manicures Bad for You?

Ah, yes, the pressing question of 2018: Are gel nails safe? Recently, some research came out about how these long-lasting manicures might be somewhat unsafe, since the process employs UV lighting, which, of course, has an association with skin cancer. Given the reputation of the light source, I was immediately concerned about the risks of gel manicures, which I usually only get for major occasions like weddings where I don’t want to worry about chippage.

I love the results, sure, but not if it means increasing the chances of getting skin cancer. Sure, I ask for those protective gloves when going under the lamp, but I’m of the mindset that you can never be too safe.

However, according to Vox, the FDA regulates UV nail lamps just as it does UV tanning lights. There have been no official warnings released about UV nail lamps and their dangers, with a dermatologist noting that there is probably no cause for alarm.

Other Safe Manicure Practices by Nail Pros

  1. Try using organic polishes. Polishes made with organic materials greatly reduce the risk of cancer compared to compounds with BHA.
  2. Let your hands air dry. Air-drying eliminates the risk of skin cancer caused by UV rays.
  3. Find a salon that uses LED lights. If air-drying just is not fast enough for you, try finding a salon that uses LED lights instead of UV lights to dry nails. LED lights do not put off as much radiation as UV lights.
  4. Make sure you pick an experienced and licensed manicurist that can give you a healthy and safe manicure.

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